If you’re a horror genre buff, you’re reading the good stuff all year; day in and day out. Horror for every occasion or mood. With the holidays upon us, it’s easy to look ahead toward Christmas and start planning for all the seasonal reading that will get you in a festive spirit. But let’s remember that there is a major U.S. holiday in November where we eat a big turkey dinner with our loved ones and celebrate family.
That’s right. Family horror.
Here are some horror book recommendations that emphasize relationships we’re all born into.
This is a short story collection centered on the theme of family. Short stories are great for busy seasons in your life when all you have time for is an hour of reading here and there. It’s satisfying to start a story and finish it in the same sitting. This collection is back-to-back good. Every story is good in its own way. Seek out trigger warnings first. Triana’s unflinching storytelling can be extreme for some readers.
The Book of Accidents
A full-size novel with some real meat on its bones. From my Tor Nightfire review, “This is straight-up, unadulterated, supernatural, paranormal, spooky, eerie, HORROR.” The main characters are a family, Maddie, Nate, and Oliver. You will fall in love with them and invest so hard in their fictional lives. Impossible to put down.
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Transport yourself to a weekend where a woman is doing her best to enjoy herself out of respect for her sister’s big day. Things are not ideal but she’s making the most of it until she realizes that something is wrong with the groom’s family. Once this book starts escalating to its conclusion, you’ll forget you have dinner burning on the stovetop so set a timer.
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Hearts Strange and Dreadful
Take a journey back to New England in the 1800s to immerse yourself in the life of Hester Stokely—an orphan adopted into a family that she cares for as her own. A deadly plague begins to ravage the small town they live in and Hester must protect her family from something far more insidious than illness. One of the best books of 2021.
Noemí Taboada is asked to travel to rural Mexico to check on her cousin who is married to a wealthy stranger the family knows nothing about. They live on a sprawling estate. Noemí visits and becomes increasingly concerned with her cousin’s mental and physical state, as well as the quality of care she has been receiving from her in-laws. Strange things begin happening to Noemí as well. The Gothic storytelling is rich and vibrant. Prepare to be utterly absorbed in this novel.
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We Need to Do Something
During a tornado warning, a family becomes trapped in their bathroom with no viable way to get out. As the storm rages outside, the family rages inside. Max Booth III takes a deep dive into a claustrophobic unraveling of a dysfunctional family in crisis. This story feels like reading inside a pressure-cooker.
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Burke throws readers right in the middle of a woman’s harrowing escape from a brutal situation involving a family of cannibals. Even though this book leans into the extreme side of horror, the quality of the character development sets this apart from horror schlock jockeys just looking to make readers uncomfortable. Make sure to look up triggers, this one is violent but definitely a must-read for fans of final girls, gruesome families, and stories like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
If you are familiar with Gregory’s work, he likes to dive into Bird Horror tropes. Is that a thing? Bird horror? Yes. And it’s very entertaining. In The Cormorant, a family inherits a bird from Uncle Ian who passed away. The bird is ugly and strange. Each family member engages with this new “pet” in a different way and ultimately, the nature of the bird is extremely questionable. A dark, awkward, uncomfortable story readers will devour in one sitting.
This is a thriller/horror story that explores the idea that sometimes, the people you think you know the most—your family—will surprise you. A family gathers together to read the will of their estranged father. They discover that in order to get their inheritance, their father has some strange requests. Readers will have no clue where this story will take them. Enjoy settling in for the unexpected twists and turns.
A brother and sister raised by their abusive mother finally make their escape. A strong, difficult look at the extreme psychological damage stemming from childhood abuse. Kolesnik takes her characters to the very brink of madness in a way that isn’t exploitive or glorified but is extremely unsettling. Be mindful of triggers if you decide to check this one out. A modern extreme horror classic in the tradition of books like Peter Bloch’s Psycho.
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